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Praise for firefighter who tried to save sports kit from flames of arson-hit GAA club

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The aftermath of an arson attack at the St James’ Aldergrove GAA club premises in Crumlin, Co Antrim, at the weekend

The aftermath of an arson attack at the St James’ Aldergrove GAA club premises in Crumlin, Co Antrim, at the weekend

The aftermath of an arson attack at the St James’ Aldergrove GAA club premises in Crumlin, Co Antrim, at the weekend

The aftermath of an arson attack at the St James’ Aldergrove GAA club premises in Crumlin, Co Antrim, at the weekend

The aftermath of an arson attack at the St James’ Aldergrove GAA club premises in Crumlin, Co Antrim, at the weekend

A firefighter responded to an emergency call unaware that the blaze was engulfing his own sports club.

James Trowlen did his best to salvage valuable property at the St James' Aldergrove GAC clubhouse shop in Co Antrim. Unfortunately the damage was substantial and the club has estimated the losses to be as much as £5,000.

The community firefighter and senior footballer received massive thanks from his GAA colleagues via club secretary Martin O'Toole, who told how James pulled sports gear from the smouldering building after the incident.

Police have said they are investigating an arson attack at the Glenavy Road in Crumlin after "a wheelie bin was placed against the door of a storage container and set alight, causing extensive damage to the exterior and smoke damage to the interior".

"It's fantastic that James, who is one of our senior footballers, was there," Mr O'Toole said.

"He's a proud Aldergrove man; it was great to see one of our own club members help put out the fire.

"It was hot and smoky, but he actually went in to see if he could salvage anything.

"We can't thank him and the other firefighters enough for their response, which limited the damage."

The GAA facilities, which are currently closed due to Covid-19, were targeted on Sunday. Mr O'Toole said the bin was pushed to the clubhouse door and set alight around 8.50pm.

"Some children who were passing saw smoke coming from the premises," he said.

"One of their parents phoned the Fire Service and members of the committee, myself included.

"When we got round to the club the firefighters were there already."

Mr O'Toole said Mr Trowlen happened to be on standby when he got a call on Sunday.

"James responded to a callout without knowing where the fire was until he got there. The fire brigade were on site within minutes, which was fantastic," he said.

Sports equipment and clothing were inside the building.

"James actually went in through a window to see if he could salvage anything," Mr O'Toole added.

"I couldn't see inside but James knew where everything was and went in and handed out some club gear to me.

"We'd just restocked it because we were anticipating the club reopening as GAA has got a restart date on June 29.

"But unfortunately it's all fire and smoke-damaged and we've just had to bin it, so we've lost between £2,000 and £5,000."

He praised the "fantastic response" from the community in the wake of the blaze.

"People have offered to clean it out and sanitise it for us and a local security firm has said they'll install CCTV to make the premises safer," Mr O'Toole added.

"We've had problems with ongoing vandalism around the clubhouse but this is probably one of the worst incidents. Thanks to the quick reaction of the public, the Fire Service was able to put it out really quickly and limit the damage."

Police have appealed for witnesses to come forward

The PSNI said that a 17-year-old was spoken to by police and a file will be forwarded to the Public Prosecution Service.

Belfast Telegraph